Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

Beyond the arc of death

Life in Bangkok is pretty normal. Not even a pause in nightlife. People are seemingly unaffected by the 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake and subsequent tidal waves that spread an arc of death in southern Thailand.

A few days short of New Year's Day, club-hopping, high-octane music in nightclubs and dance and drinking -- all are going on in earnest.

The killer tsunami that sucked hundreds of tourists deep into the sea on Sunday and continued to return them dead until yesterday could not stop tourists going to bars and nightclubs after sundown.

Scenes of mindless nightlife came as a brazen contrast to the life in the tsunami-shattered beach in Phuket that now reeks of death and destruction.

In downtown Bangkok, a Western couple was lazing out in the slanting afternoon sun at the open-air Silk Bar and Restaurant on Khao San Road, a hotspot of backpackers. It was a few hours before bars plunged into heady nightlife.

"People here talk about the disaster. That's it," said Ido Hamdi, who came from Israel. "But their life was not affected. They go clubbing and shopping. Life here seems almost the same as before," he said.

"Well, those who were in Phuket or other places in times of tsunami are scared. They are struggling hard to fly back home," said Hamdi, accompanied by his friend.

Many tourists found themselves buying clothes, accessories and CDs and eating Thai delicacies and drinking.

The disaster did not let down two Australian students who were walking down Khao San Road -- apparently happy vacationing in Bangkok. They are thinking of travelling up north instead of southern Thailand.

"No, it (tsunami) is not a huge disappointment for us ... We have alternatives. We will travel to the northern part of Thailand," said Elysa Sorahan, who came from Melbourne, along with her friend Claire Pirrett, for vacationing in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

"We will come back to Bangkok before we return home," said Elysa, a student in Melbourne.

Yet, some tourists seem to be in a daze. They are awe-struck by the torrents that travelled some 1,600 kilometres and slammed into India and Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar and as far as Somalia on the east coast of Africa, more than 4,500 kilometres apart.

"We feel bad about it. But we are lucky as we left Phuket a few days before the tsunami hit the beach resort," said Jenny Dubois, who came from Alaska to escape the cold front back home.

"It is shocking," said Dubois, speaking to The Daily Star, her fiancÚ Pavel Mikhail standing by the roadside.

The sales executive of Kamar Silver Factory and Exporting Company Limited, who gave his name as Shah, said: "Our sales went slack, but this is not for the earthquake or tsunami. The slump in sales is normal after Christmas."